I was born in a land of shifting sands, but at the age of five I moved to the antithesis of Arabia: the land of the long white cloud. I did not know a word of English but I learned quickly and was absorbed into the fold of words. Transported to the land of the boy who lived, the boy who touched the dragon egg, the girl who talked to spiders. Lands where anything is possible. You see, I did not want to go to school then. Desperate in my loneliness, I dreamed of making these words my world, then I knew who I was.
At the age of fifteen, things became murkier. I still loved the boy who lived but now Owen and Swift too. Newton and Mohammad. Now I wanted to go to that forbidden sleepover. Now I wanted to hold that boy’s hand. Now I wanted to belong in the world of the pale-faced strangers despite faces that whispered: you are not like us. Despite my parent’s mantra: we are not like them. Still then, I thought I knew who I was.
At the age of eighteen, my body was starving. Hours upon hours of movement and little nourishment had made my bones visible, my bleeding halt, and my hair wither. I no longer wanted to hold that boy’s hand—I didn’t even care. I no longer filled my life with quests and adventures but the words of religious scholars who preached a way of life that was rigid and unyielding, for I like them had forgotten to be like the very sands I was birthed on. Soft, malleable, flowing with the wind. Now my life was consumed with piety and discipline, mind and body and soul. But discipline brought with it judgment, of myself, of others. Certainly, then I thought I knew who I was.
Now at the age of twenty-two, I have nourished this body, released myself from judgement and rigid, suffocating discipline. Now I read the work of Mohammad, yes, but also Jesus, Brown, Angelou, and Rumi. Now I have returned back to the boy who lived, to the complete and utter magic of words. Now I have loved a man, foolishly, yes. But love him I did, with every crevice of my soul no matter the outcome because sometimes there is only love. My path is tangled, and obstacles, one after the other, lie in my way—you see, much is out of my control. But this path is also mine.
What I don’t know will always dwarf what I do, but I do know this. Now, I am certain I have no idea who I am, that perhaps only as a child I ever had a glimpse. But maybe that’s okay. Maybe encapsulating my humanity in a sentence, in a verse, even in a poem, is not just near impossible—it is doomed. Maybe you don’t find yourself. Maybe you create yourself. I will—out of all the big, small, good, bad, all the pain and love, all the experiences of my world, all the pieces that make her, that make me.